Is the hcg diet safe?
June 10, 2011 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with the hcg diet we're hearing more and more of?

My sister has jumped on the bandwagon and I'm a bit worried for her. She's desperate to lose 40 lbs and has kind of plateaued. After hearing her friend lose a lot on this diet she immediately went to a health centre offering it. I've tried to do research about it/educate myself so I'm not the nagging older sister but all the sites I go to seems to just want to sell me their supplements. I just scratch my head and wonder how eating 500 calories a day can be considered healthy and if people actually sustain this weight loss when they go off the diet.

Anyone here have experience with this diet or know people who have that can put my fears to rest?
posted by bluehermit to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The hCG dies is a fad diet. You consume 500 calories a day plus human Chorionic Gondatropin and you lose weight. The hCG is how these people make money while the 500 calories a day is how you lose weight.

Humans can't live a meaningful life on 500 calories a day so if one happens to lose 40 pounds on this diet fairly quickly, a lot of that weight will probably come back once the diet is over. Also should mention that the diet was created by a Kevin Trudeau who is a "convicted felon with no certified medical training."
posted by hammerthyme at 5:34 PM on June 10, 2011 [8 favorites]

There is no way 500 calories a day can be healthy. Your body needs a base line level of calories for basal metabolism and the like. Having such low calories will cause all kinds of issues such as hormone swings, loss of fat/protein, depletion of glycogen stores in your liver, etc... Sorry that I don't have more specific information in regards to the hcg diet, but it just seems so crazy to me.

The below information probably won't help you much since it's for people who want to loose weight (your sister).

I strongly suggest taking a basic Food Nutrition course from your local community college, many of which offer online courses. I learned a TON of great info from the course I took last year even though I already knew a lot. (Be sure to get a good teacher though.) You can even ask the teacher who is usually a registered dietitian (RD) for personal advice during office hours!

The "diet" my Food Nutrition teacher positively talked about was the DASH diet as outlined in this recent NPR article.

Personally I think diets are lame, and simply following a few simple rules is all that's needed:
-Get rid of all sugared liquids - only water and milk
-Eat your carbohydrates with fiber (ie: eat real fruit and vegetables, and not processed foods)
-Wait 20 minutes for second portions
-Buy your screen time (computer, tv, etc.) minute for minute with physical activity (ie: exercise more)
Source: Sugar: The Bitter Truth

-Eat a colorful diet, to get a variety of phytonutrients and the like. Example found here.

Granted following the rules is the "real" hard part of any diet. But start small and add a new level once you reached a simple goal. For example some simple goals to slowly incorporate one at a time are: drinking more water, eliminating soda and juice, add more fiber to your diet by buying "100% whole wheat bread" and other whole grain options, wait more time between second portions, eat a piece of fruit a day, eat 1.5x the amount of veggies you would eat during a meal, etc. etc. Slowly over time these small goals add up and become second nature.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 5:36 PM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I forgot to mention that my Food Nutrition teacher talked a lot about the Yo-Yo Effect that people experience with 'fad' diets and the like. That is you initially loose weight, but then revert back to your old habits and gain it all back. It's terrible on your body and never permanent.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 5:40 PM on June 10, 2011

The hCG diet works because you are eating 500 calories a day, not because of hCG. I guarantee if you only eat 500 calories a day without the hCG you will lose weight. Ask any anorexic.
posted by schroedinger at 5:42 PM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

The hCG is a great diet if your plan is to stick with it for a few weeks, grow extremely frustrated, then crash in spectacular fashion and end up worse than before.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 5:51 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Who knows what the long term effects of this type of diet are, but I currently live with someone who's currently on it (she started 7 months ago) and has lost 60+ pounds so far. She never complains about feeling starved or tired (she does follow the 500 calorie restriction).

She's said she gains a bit of weight back during the "breaks" you take during the diet, but from what I'ved observed her weightloss has remained steady without yo-yos. AGAIN, I don't know the long term effects of this diet, and have no idea how safe it really is.
posted by french films about trains at 6:17 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

If Kevin Trudeau is involved, you can be safely assured it is complete and utter fraud.

Also, this doesn't seem like a great thing to be putting into your body. My guess is that it is simply destroyed in the digestive system, because getting that stuff into your bloodstream seems like a bad idea.
posted by gjc at 7:07 PM on June 10, 2011

My SO works with a guy who's wife peddles it. All the people in my SO's office use this stuff. The SO's complaint is everyone is really cranky and bitchy when the are using the HCG an only eating 500 calories. So works or not...It might make a person a real pain to be around.
posted by hot_monster at 9:38 PM on June 10, 2011

I have a friend who lost 95 pounds on it, which I was boggled by, but then she told me she was using the "homeopathic" hcg which is just water. So she was just starving herself. Weight's been off for a year, though.

I keep thinking of trying it, because the only way I can reliably and easily lose weight is to get pregnant, at which point the weight falls right off me. But I haven't, because it's a quack diet with no science behind it, and anyway I'm nursing a baby.
posted by KathrynT at 12:01 AM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know someone well who has done it, and is currently doing it. It seems to have as much success as any diet, which is, people lose weight while doing it. Whether you keep the weight off or not (while eating more than 500 calories a day) is the problem. The claims about it actually moving fat around your body (like if you always have had fat on your stomach you disliked, taking hcg would somehow "dissolve" the fat in that place or move it, somehow) I have seen no evidence of.
posted by pinky at 6:37 AM on June 11, 2011

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